There is an odd little song in the musical Cabaret, where an old landlord who runs a Berlin rooming house during the rise of the Nazi Party sings a song entitled Who Cares? So What? While on the surface the song is meant to be slightly humorous and ironic, the words seem to point to one of the deepest challenges we face as humanity: apathy.
The word has its origin in Greek and literally means “without feelings.” What is the cause of apathy? It is often frustration and a sense of powerlessness that causes people to withdraw and develop a lackadaisical attitude.
Politicians jockeying for votes, wars on every continent, unemployment rates skyrocketing and the elderly being forced to choose between food or medication dominates the evening news. With this constantly blaring in the recesses of our minds, it would be easy to fall into a why should I care? or so what? attitude. The limited nature of our lives certainly makes it impossible to do everything, but most of the time we can, at the very least, do something.
With the Penn State child abuse scandal dominating the news as of late, many are shaking their heads and asking the obvious question why didnt assistant coach Mike McQueary, who reportedly witnessed Jerry Sandusky raping a 10-year-old boy in the locker room showers, not follow through and make certain the authorities were alerted? Obviously reporting the crime to his superiors wasnt enough. How could one see a child being sexually abused and not intervene?
The explosive grand jury report indicates at least eight people at Penn State had either witnessed former coach Jerry Sandusky molesting children, or been told that others had witnessed abuse. And yet, it seems, not one of them informed law enforcement authorities. What the heck?
We, as a country, are somewhere between complacency and apathy.
So what does one do when apathy and neutrality begins to develop? The answer is to get involved. Do, create, share thoughts and ideas and take a risk. It is imperative that we try to put ourselves into the other persons shoes.
Christmas is the perfect time to personally reflect and make certain we are not falling victim to apathy. When every organization, ministry and group is accepting donations and there is a bell ringer on every corner, it would be easy to fall into an attitude of “too many mouths to feed, and not enough funds to feed them.” Apathy can take away the gift of caring and compassion we all have with in us and those gifts are most needed this time of year when everyone has their hand out and people are constantly getting on one anothers nerves.
I was about to fall into an apathetic state the week of Thanksgiving. Because I chose to wait until Wednesday afternoon to purchase the ingredients necessary to complete my part of the family meal, there I was, stuck in a long line of tired and flustered shoppers, tapping my foot and checking my watch, when I noticed the lady at the front of the line had not one, but two shopping carts filled to the brim with hams, turkeys, yams, potatoes and all the faithful Thanksgiving fares. The frazzled lady ringing up her groceries inquired about the enormous meal she was obviously planning for the next day. Her reply struck a nerve to everyone within earshot. I volunteered to purchase and serve Thanksgiving to several homeless families from my daughters school, she told the cashier. After learning her total, which was in the neighborhood of $600, she still shocked me as she leaned back and asked me to hand her one of each of the candy bars which are poised within reach of those waiting in line, beckoning to us as we wait. One of each? I asked, to which she replied, please.
After I gathered some ten to twelve different candy bars and reached them to her, she asked the cashier to add them to her order. After she handed the lady her cash, seven crisp one hundred dollar bills, and received her change, she told her the candy bars were for each of the cashiers and asked if she would be so kind as to distribute them. Wow!
That same gesture brought me to realize that we should care about the other person. We should continue to care no matter how difficult it becomes sometimes. It is time we look out for the ones who need someone to look out for them. It might be the very best gift you can give this Christmas.
“The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who dont do anything about it.” – Albert Einstein